Ever since the establishment of governments in society - and long before Confederation in this province - government has always and continues to appoint, designate or cause to be elected outside committees, commissions, advisory agencies and boards to provide input and advice to our official party/community leaders.
Sometimes they take the advice but more often than not, they choose not to even listen to their own appointees. Of course, unless it's in the best interest of the governing party because then they can say (meaning the government) we consulted by way of engaging the public in a meaningful way. Wow, this sounds tremendously familiar for all levels of government.
As soon as there is a controversial issue, they love to stand on their soap boxes and boast that only those who are opposing an unpopular decision are a few of the vocal minority. In my opinion and stance: what a load of hog wash! So are they saying; if you're not on an official committee, you can't have a say?
Just by way of example and I am positive there are many more that the readers can think of; the Public Utilities Board (PUB) was originally established in 1949 under the authority of the Lieutenant Governor in Council and operates by virtue of the Public Utilities Act (RSN 1990).
The PUB is responsible for the regulation of the electric utilities throughout the province to ensure that the rates charged are just and reasonable, and that the service is safe and reliable. The board can conduct (and often does) public hearings using a quasi-judicial approach in accordance with the provisions of the Public Enquires Act.
Now, what does all this really mean? Simply put, when Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro apply to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for a rate increase, the PUB has a responsibility to us as users to set the rate schedules that we all pay.
On July 30, 2013 the Board of Public Utilities received a general rate application from NL Hydro for a full review of its costs and rates. They (NL Hydro) among other things are requesting that the PUB approve; Rates to be charged for the supply of power and energy to its customers (meaning a rate increase) and revisions to the rules and regulations applicable to the same.
How will this affect residents of Labrador? Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (not including the coast as they are under diesel generation power) identifies Labrador users by the term "interconnected system" and we will see an average increase of approximately 26 per cent, specifically for domestic users.
This will mean that for every household in the communities of Wabush, Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay will pay another 26 per cent of already high power bills. In addition to this increase towns will have to pay another 42 per cent to operate and maintain their streetlights, this will result another expense for towns to recuperate.
Now I can't speak for the other towns categorically but when I was deputy mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and chair of the finance committee, our town had to incur an expense of about $ 125,000 for streetlights. So on top of our own personal hydro bills going up, so are the costs to the town to provide safe communities. How are people to afford such increases? People can express their opposition to this by various means.
Interested people could have applied through an intervention process by Aug. 30, 2013 to participate in the official hearings. Fortunately or unfortunately, the only official interveners registered for Labrador on this proposed rate increase are Mr. Ed Hearn (on behalf of the towns of Wabush, Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay), Yvonne Jones (MP for Labrador) and the Innu Nation.
However, people can contact the board secretary by mail at: Public Utilities Board, Suite E210, Prince Charles Building, 120 Torbay Road, St. John's, PO Box 21040, NL, A1A 5B2 or by e-mail at email@example.com. I encourage people to write letters to express their feelings on this increase and how it will affect them. Remember we all have a voice.
- Stan Oliver writes from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.